On Wednesday, this writer was a skeptic.
Rangers GM Glen Sather traded away what amounts to the team’s draft picks for the next two years for Ryane Clowe, a guy who was being outscored by Scott Gomez. And then the other shoe dropped.
Less than 24 hours after the Rangers mortgaged their untold future depth for a 34 year old brute to replace the sadly departed Brandon Prust, Sather pulled the trigger on trading Marian Gaborik, along with Steven Delisle, to Columbus for gritty forwards Derek Brassard and Derek Dorsett, and stay at home blue liner John Moore.
At first glance, Sather got fleeced. Gaborik is a three time 40 goal scorer, and, when on his game, can be dangerous from anywhere on the ice. Gaborik’s departure triggered a public outcry on Twitter the likes haven’t been seen since the NHL lockout began. Based on some of the irrational tweets, one would think that Gaborik was the right hand of God, and his presence was all that stood in between the Rangers and winning a cup.
But, the reality was that Gaborik found it difficult to adjust his game to match coach John Tortorella’s mantra of sacrifice first, offense starting from defense second. Gaborik, even when he was scoring regularly, often tried the patience of the coaching staff and was often found making lazy defensive plays.
That just will not do in Tortorella’s Black and Blue Shirts.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Gaborik has one year left on his $37.5 million contract. His cap hit is $7.5 million. Sather knows that Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, and Ryan McDonough all need longer contracts. Stepan has emerged as a tremendous spark plug, and a skilled playmaker. McDonough has developed not only into a great puck moving defenseman, but is also one of the league’s best shut down blue liners, logging huge minutes against the opposition’s top forwards night after night. Gaborik’s departure saves them from burning their final amnesty buyout, possibly for Brad Richards, and allows them to sign those three players, plus signing Clowe to a longer deal, if they so choose.
Speaking of Clowe, the new guy scored two goals versus the conference leading Penguins, added an assist. Derek Brassard, fresh from a plane trip from Columbus to midtown Manhattan, scored a goal and added 3 assists. John Moore even got in on the action, scoring his first goal in 57 games. The trio combined for 4 goals and 4 assists
The aforementioned Brad Richards played like a man on a mission, adding two assists. Brian Boyle doubled his point total on the season, netting a power play tally, and adding 3 assists. For the first time this season the Rangers scored 3 power play goals in a single game, with the new guys figuring heavily in a game most Rangers fans were dreading coming in.
Will these new additions be able to keep up the pace? Maybe not, but these Rangers came out of the trade deadline much harder to play against. They got some of their intense forecheck back, and dominated these seemingly unbeatable Penguins for much of the game. If that is any indication, the Rangers could possibly be set up for a deep playoff run.
That’s not to say the Rangers haven’t underachieved for this shortened season, but Sather has made a series of moves, starting with the Powe-for-Rupp trade, along with the signing Mats “The Hobbit” Zuccarello, that has replaced much of the depth that was lost with the Rick Nash trade, and the departures of John Mitchell and Brandon Prust.
After the return of Zuccarello, a fan asked me, via Facebook, how many scorers does Sather need to get on Tortorella’s team for “the plan” to work. Well, about THIS many, it seems, and re-add some much needed muscle to make it interesting. At least for a night, Glen Sather could sit back in the press box with a big fat stoagie, saying to himself in classic A-Team style, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
These Rangers moves are officially Big Mick approved.
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photo credit: Robert Kowal via photopin cc